We live in Quebec and it gets really cold out here. Since two weeks the temperature gets around -35C and sometimes my subby won't start.

At first I suspected the battery itself, but when the problem was occurring all the light seemed to be working at 100% of there capacity. I found this detail pretty strange... So to get it run again I boosted it with my other car and then it started and ran good.

This morning I had the same problem, but when I tried to boost the car the started made a little click noise and didn't start and the other car lights were dimming like crazy. I suspected the starter, I hit it with my crowbar and it started right away. Afterwards I went to tim hortons and the car stalled... Trying to start it again, it made the same clicking noise from the starter... I hit it again with the crowbar and it started fine afterwards.

My questions are: Is my problem the starter since the beginning or the battery or both? Should I change the starter? Is it dying or is it because of the cold?

Thanks for your help ;)

  • Yesterday I proceeded with the least expensive step and I changed the battery... Since then, I started the car 6 times for various trip and the problem didn't came back... I will wait for a few days before calling this a successful repair. Crossing my fingers... Feb 4, 2015 at 15:00
  • The problem came back the next day... I removed the starter opened it. I discovered that two of the brushes were worn out on the armature, exactly what Paulster2 predicted. I bought a new starter and installed it. It's two bolts to unscrew (14mm). Not much space to work with all the hoses nearby, for those interested, using a ratcheting wrench was the way to go. Thanks to Paulster2! Feb 6, 2015 at 16:07

2 Answers 2


It sounds as though the solenoid is going out on your starter, or possibly the brushes are worn out on the armature. I doubt it has to do with the cold, mainly because you said it did it after being running for a while (on your trip to Tim Hortons). The starter/solenoid would have been pretty warm at that point ... way warmer than it would need to be if freezing were actually the issue.

The part of the solenoid which could be going bad is, there is a copper washer which allows power to flow from the battery to the starter motor itself. When the solenoid is energized, the washer is slammed into these two posts to make the connection. If the washer or posts are becoming worn out, it will only work intermittently.

In the starter there are things called brushes. These brushes pass electricity to the right part of the armature at the right time so as to create motion from it. These brushes wear out over time. I've had the brushes run down to the screws which connects them to the spring loaded arm which is used to push them into the armature. If something like this is happening, you may also have a situation where the starter will only intermittently engage.

In either of these situations, the problem will only become worse. You can take the starter to most of the major parts stores and have it tested to make sure. It may run on the bench, though. Without knowing the mileage on your Subie, I'd think nine years is a reasonable life expectancy for your starter, especially if it is used mainly for city or stop & go driving.


I have a 2008 Impreza and had the same problem once last Winter. Battery boost didn't help. Still nothing except a solenoid click. It's a standard shift so we towed it to start it. All was OK after the engine warmed up. I suspect that slush from the salted roads collected somewhere around or in the starter motor and then froze up overnight with the lower temperature (about -25 C).

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